Weekend before last was Pride Weekend in San Diego. I’ve been looking forward to it since we moved here last month because I LOVE Pride festivities. I know it makes many people uncomfortable and if you fall into that category, stop reading now. If not, enjoy this story time.
Pride in Hillcrest is all-consuming and very intense. Our apartment is one short block from the parade route and we couldn’t have been happier about it. I am not gay and don’t have any gay tendencies but it’s so hard not to be happy at this massive celebration of love. Gay people everywhere know distinctly the feeling of being out-of-place. Very few neighborhoods are accepting of two men or two women kissing or holding hands in public, let alone dressing and acting flamboyantly as many gay people feel most comfortable.
If you are straight, can you imagine not being able to hold hands with your partner without drawing dirty looks and even shouts of disgust? Can you really, truly imagine?
So when I sat down to do a bit of pregaming and planning with my neighbor, I was astounded to hear his story. I will tell is as best I can, but you can’t understand the emotion that overcame him as he was telling it. This usually bubbly, delightful man broke down into a sad, beaten boy.
Justin (name changed for obvious reasons) grew up in small town in Maine. He came from a family wholly unaccepting of gay people. You can imagine what home life must have been like. But, unlike many shunned children, school was not a sanctuary, it was a place of even worse torment.
You know double doors in school hallways? Two doors with a bar in between to hold the structure up. The bar is a 2 inch square of solid steel. And when Justin would walk to class between periods, his classmates would approach on all sides and ram him into the bar. This little trick landed the honors student in the emergency room many times.
Finally, at sixteen years old, it became too much. Although he excelled at school, he decided to drop out and pursue other avenues of education. Without the support of his parents, he took matters into his own hands. The problem was that he was too young to earn his GED in adult classes. Without superintendent approval, he was unable to attend school of any kind.
So he scheduled a meeting and brought his case to the superintendent. As Justin told his story, the full-grown man welled up in tears. The only person of authority willing to sit and understand Justin’s position in life, he granted the boy the freedom he needed to obtain his GED. He said that he wished it wasn’t necessary but the best thing he could do was let Justin carve his own path. Finally, someone with love in their heart.
Justin earned his GED and as soon as he turned 18 he moved away from his family, his state, and all he had every known. He tried to attend college but every time he entered the university hallways and saw those double doors, he would panic and bolt. That steel frame has left him scarred for life.
Luckily, he not the kind of man who is easily defeated. He moved to Florida and lived there for almost 20 years before he transferred to California. He worked his way up from the bottom of the ladder and now has over thirty direct reports. His laugh is now the sound I hear from the courtyard on my way to bed and his smiling face greets me every morning on my way to work. He’s a wonderful, kind man and I’m happy to have the chance to know him.
And it’s stories like that that make Pride weekend awesome. For all these people who don’t fully fit in everywhere where else, Pride gives them the space and encouragement to love whoever they want with their whole heart and soul. Wonderful 🙂
^Dykes on Bikes
^ Just makes me love Dr. Bronners even more.
^ And to cap it all off, half-naked men. I told you Pride was awesome 🙂
Happy Friday! Have a great weekend. Love and big smile – Ash